Dr Frankenstein

The Crucible
- , 2017

Tickets cost £20 - £24
Phone: 0114 249 6000

A bold re-imagining of the gothic masterpiece. Our review...

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Dr Frankenstein Archived

It’s a story that many of us are somewhat familiar with, even if we haven’t read Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's famous novel or seen one of its many adaptations. Dr Frankenstein is a young, brilliant doctor, who through pioneering scientific experiments, manages to bring a body back to life. When this being, the Creature, finds itself in the world outside Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory, he learns to communicate, but experiences isolation and hostility, eventually returning to confront his creator. This new production, adapted by Selma Dimitrijevic and directed by Lorne Campbell, sees Shelley’s plot distilled down to a finely-tuned stage production and changes Dr Frankenstein from male to female. Here, it is Dr Victoria Frankenstein who dares to challenge the boundary between life and death amidst the brave new world of the industrial revolution.

Polly Frame as Dr Frankenstein steers the course of the plot as the ambitious young doctor who rejects the traditional female role of housewife and mother, in order to pursue her passion for science in Ingolstadt in Bavaria (which, unlike England at the time, will allow women to study medicine).

Frame’s interpretation of Frankenstein sees the doctor dance along the thin line between the exciting possibilities of science and the danger of disrupting nature, as explored in Shelley’s original novel. Frame’s performance is energetic and engaging, occasionally slipping into the maniacal, which gives the production a stark, psychotic edge. Whenever Frame explains the potential of science to cheat death and prevent the pain of loss, her face is full of hope – but there’s a hint of madness in her eyes and in her movement. The script also sees us join Victoria in one of her nightmares, confined to the same trolley that was used to hold the Creature, as Elizabeth Frankenstein (Victoria Elliott) and her father (Donald McBride) rather confusingly swap dialogue, and housekeeper Justine Moritz (Rachel Denning) runs around the stage, repeating a series of actions as though on a bizarre loop.

It is perhaps a shame that the Creature, played by Ed Gaughan, is not given more room in the script, considering his adept performance. Gaughan commits entirely to his physical interpretation of Shelley’s famous monster – his drooping limbs and lolloping walk are both frightening and at times endearing, and his monster’s skilful impressions of the humans he has encountered add a little light humour to the second act. Gaughan’s monologues are delivered with a mix of simple innocence and acute observation, and present a suitably spine-tingling reminder of the fallibility of human nature and the decidedly grey area that exists between right and wrong. Watch out, too, for the Creature’s poignant final encounter with Dr Frankenstein, as he quietly recounts his first memory of feeling alive – the simple act of someone else acknowledging him with a "hello".

Altering the central character and simplifying the plot creates a rather different storyline from the Frankenstein that audiences may be used to, however, Dimitrijevic’s adaptation continues to explore the key challenges found at the heart of the original. Ambition and morality, the concept of the self and society, and the point at which science and nature clash are all still at play in this refreshing new take on Shelley’s masterpiece – this is a creation that remains true to its master.

Image: Polly Frame as Dr Victoria Frankenstein, courtesy of Sheffield Theatres.

Written by Emma Liasides; March 20, 2017

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